Political Animal

WE’RE #2!….Nick Denton says that

WE’RE #2!….Nick Denton says that French isn’t even in the top ten of world languages, and it’s about time the French learned it. Whatever. What I’m really interested in his contention (based on figures from the Summer Institute for Linguistics) that English is the #3 language worldwide with 322 million speakers.

Just counting the United States, Great Britain, Ireland, Canada (minus Quebec), and Australia, I get a population of about 400 million, which puts English at #2. Even discounting the 20 million or so non-English speakers in the U.S., we’ve still got at least 380 million native English speakers worldwide.

So what’s up? Do they not count children or something?

A 6-STEP PROGRAM….Britain is in

A 6-STEP PROGRAM….Britain is in a frenzy of UN activity trying to secure passage of a second resolution that sets out firm benchmarks for Saddam Hussein. Here they are:

  1. Mr. Hussein must admit on Iraqi television that he possesses weapons of mass destruction and will now disarm fully.

  2. He will account for and destroy stocks of anthrax and other biological and chemical weapons.

  3. Mr. Hussein will permit 30 scientists and their families to fly to Cyprus for interrogation by United Nations weapons inspectors.

  4. He will admit to possession of an unmanned drone aircraft discovered by inspectors.

  5. He will promise to destroy mobile production facilities for biological weapons.

  6. Mr. Hussein will pledge to complete the destruction of all unlawful missiles.

I guess it’s worth a try, but it doesn’t seem likely that anything like this will fly in the Security Council.

And when you get right down to it, isnt #1 the only one that matters? The others are really just window dressing, aren’t they?


THOSE INSCRUTABLE FRENCH….As a followup to the post below, I’d like to take a crack at the question implicitly posed by Steven Den Beste and Michael Ledeen: Why is France opposing us so strenuously? Here are a few possibilities that do not include partnerships with Osama or threats of nuclear war against the United States:

  • They have good relations with the Arab world and have a natural inclination to side with them.

  • Jacques Chirac thinks it’s good domestic politics since 80% of his constituents oppose war.

  • Based on their experience with both terrorism and the Muslim world ? which is quite a bit more extensive than ours ? they believe that a war will destabilize the Middle East and cause more problems than it will solve.

  • They agree that Saddam is dangerous but genuinely believe that intrusive inspections can keep him in a box at less cost and risk than a war.

  • Chirac doesn’t really care about the United States, he just wants to piss off Tony Blair.

  • Chirac has his back up now and is refusing to back down purely for reasons of Gallic pride and macho posturing.

I haven’t the slightest idea whether any or none of these is true, and there are plenty of other possibilities too. But warbloggers, who are so wrapped up in their revulsion for Saddam Hussein that they can’t conceive of why anyone would be opposed to going to war against him, should understand that there are plenty of perfectly plausible reasons for French opposition ? some of them honorable and some not.

And another warning: if it were only France that were opposed to war, then conspiracy theories about their stand might be within the realm of reason. But (a) half the population of the United States is opposed to war in one form or another, (b) a large majority of virtually every other country in the world is also opposed, (c) on the Security Council, there are currently 11 countries leaning against war and three permanent members who might veto a U.S. resolution, (d) Turkey’s parliament has denied us basing rights, (e) most of the Arab world, including Iraq’s neighbors, who are certainly in the greatest immediate danger, oppose the war, and (f) every single country in the world except two ? Britain and Australia ? has declined to provide us with any military assistance.

Whether you like it or not, Chirac is pretty much in the mainstream of world opinion ? and probably loving every minute of it. You hardly need to engage in any conspiracy theorizing to figure that out.

UPDATE: As a couple of readers have noted, it’s also likely that general French dislike of American “cultural hegemony” should be added to my list. You bet. But you still don’t need partnerships with al-Qaeda to understand why France acts the way it does.